Support Your Fellow Christians

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The above verse is one that is familiar to most Christians, but I wonder how many think about exactly what it means to “seek first the kingdom of God.” I think the most obvious interpretation of this is that we should be seeking, first and foremost, to be more like Jesus. This involves surrendering our will to His and learning what He desires of us. One area that I think is hard for a lot of people to surrender is that of finances.

With the ever-rising popularity of places like Walmart and Amazon, many “mom and pop” companies have gone by the wayside. We see fewer cottage industries because everyone knows that they can’t compete with companies that have a large enough bank account to buy products for next to nothing and then sell to the consumer for less than you or I could sell them for.

I am not saying that it is wrong to shop at big stores and save money. I like to bargain shop myself. And, if we are talking twice the price or more to order from a Christian company, my budget would probably not allow me to spend that much. However, I have found instances where the savings is only a few dollars, and this is where I would much rather support my fellow Christians or local businesses.

One reason this is weighing heavy on my heart, besides the fact that I just started my own online bookstore, is that I travel the country setting up booths to sell books for Family Renewal and Master Books. These companies spend a lot of time and money to go to conventions where people can look through the books to decide what they would like to purchase. Then many times they go home and order from Amazon or another discount seller, leaving us to pack up the inventory and take it back home. No wonder conferences are dying left and right as exhibitors are no longer covering their expenses.

What many don’t realize is that, when you purchase that really cheap product from a discounter, the creator of the product gets very little from that sale. If you buy a book on Amazon, for example, the author probably makes less than $2/book. Less than $1 in some cases. Most authors are happy to get books into people’s hands so they would rather folks buy from Amazon than not buy, but if you want to support your favorite author and help him or her to be able to continue to write and, in some cases, support their families, then it is much better to purchase directly from the author or another Christian distributor that doesn’t discount very much.

As Christians, we are to be good stewards of the funds God has given us, but we also need to pray about where to use those funds and who He desires to bless through our purchases. It is His money after all.

I Love You

I love you. One of the most beautiful phrases that you can say and yet society has distorted love to the point that, if you were to tell someone you love them, especially outside of your immediate family, they might become uncomfortable or look at you as if they’re trying to figure out what you want from them. The sad thing is that, because of this, many people feel unloved. Many moms and dads never even tell their children they love them because they are not accustomed to doing so, and they assume that their children just know somehow. I believe one of the reasons suicide is rampant today is because of this lack.

The New Testament is full of verses instructing us to love each other.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

There are plenty of ways to let others know that you love them and, if you had to choose between telling a person or showing them, I strongly recommend showing them, but I would encourage you to let someone know that the reason you serve them, pray for them, spend time with them is because you love them. Not because you are obligated but because Christ has placed a love within you that flows to those around you. Try it out this week. If it’s someone that you have never told before, they may not know how to respond, but that may just be the person that needs the reminder that they really are loved.

Be Faithful

“Nothing that we do for God is small.” I read these words from D.L. Moody this morning. It reminds me of the song that says, “Little is much when God is in it.” I need to be reminded of this sometimes. OK. I need to be reminded quite often.

I turned 45 a couple months ago, and it hits me at times that I have more than likely lived over half my life already. Accompanied with that thought is wondering if I have done anything to impact people’s lives and help them to draw closer to the Savior. If I haven’t, then my life has been a waste, and I do not want to end my life that way.

I know I’ve written on this before, but I expect that I am not the only one who needs these reminders. You do not have to be a singer, a speaker, a writer, or a pastor to be used by God. You just have to be faithful. Faithful to live a Godly life, faithful to your family, faithful to the calling God has placed on your life (not someone else’s). If you do that, you will most likely reach more people than you can imagine. You may not even know you are doing so. I will also counter that if you are not living a faithful life, then all the good you think you are doing, you are probably not.

Faithfulness is one of the things that I admire most in a person, but I don’t often tell the people I admire that I do so. I guess that’s something I need to work on.

If you are discouraged today or are caught in the trap of looking up to others while feeling insignificant yourself, look up. Examine your life in the light of God’s Word. If you are living a life of obedience, that is all He asks. He will bring the increase. Just keep being faithful.

Rejoice!

Sometimes it’s good to look back down
We’ve come so far; we’ve gained such ground
But joy is not in where we’ve been
Joy is who’s waiting at the end

As I sat down to write this afternoon, these lyrics came to mind (taken from the song “Run After God With All Your Heart”). In my case, I am looking back to where my health was from January to April of this year, and I am thanking God for how far He has brought me. It’s easy to still be discouraged when I think that I’m not where I want to be yet, but why would I complain when God is continuing to do a work in my life?

Nobody likes to be around someone who is always down, and I imagine that is true for God as well. As long as everything is going well, we are full of praise and adoration for Him, but when something happens that we don’t like, we grumble and complain and fret. How that must make Him sad! After all, He is still as powerful as He was last week, but we very quickly lose sight of that.

I confess that I do this too often, but I pray to lift up my eyes of faith to see what God is doing instead of focusing on the negative that can cause discouragement and depression. I want to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

I would like to see every Believer share more praise reports than prayer requests. We have both, and I love to pray for my Brothers and Sisters, but often the needs overshadow God’s goodness. In the midst of our trials, let’s not forget to rejoice because He is good!

Things I’ve Learned

Seven or eight years ago, I went through the greatest trial of my life so far. My life has not always been easy, but looking back at most of the difficult times, I can see how God used them in some way in spite of how hard it was to go through them. This last trial, I still cannot see any good that came out of it, and I possibly never will. I can say, though, that God is still faithful. Although He felt distant at times, He kept holding my hand and, eventually, I was able to smile again. He also has opened doors for me that I would not have walked through had I not gone through that. Hmm. Maybe something good came out of it after all.

People like to quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” The key words are “for them that love God.” Sometimes bad things happen because of people’s selfishness or fleshly desires. God is not obligated to bring anything good out of these situations. He may do so, but He may not.

Too many treat God like a genie. When they need something, they call on Him. When everything is going well, they ignore Him. When things aren’t going as they’d like and He doesn’t answer how they wish, they get mad at Him. How this must grieve Him!

I turned 45 earlier this month. That may seem young to some of you and old to others, but I think of it as somewhere in between. I know I have a lot to learn yet, but I have learned a few things in my relatively short time here on earth. The one thing I cling to in the good and the bad times is that God is faithful. People are not always, but God is.

As long as there is breath, there is hope. The fact that I am alive proves that God still has a work for me to do, and I know that is the same for you as well. When troubles come, you may want to shut down and give up. That is the worst thing you could do. Give your burden to the Lord. Let Him carry it while you continue doing the work that God has called you to do.

I hope this encourages you, as that is my intent. “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; [Christ has] overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Are You Ready to Die?

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).

How easy it is in today’s society to declare, “I am a Christian,” but how hard it can be to walk the walk sometimes. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I expect many people are as afraid to die to their flesh as they are for their flesh to die.

This evening, my Walk of Repentance Bible study focused on Galatians 5:16-26. So much is contained in those eleven verses which start with, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (v. 16, emphasis added). It goes on to list the lusts of the flesh versus the fruits of the Spirit. It’s sobering to compare the two lists and ask yourself, “In which category do I exhibit the most traits?” When you compare yourself with others, it’s easy to feel good about yourself but, when you look into the mirror of God’s Word, that is when you see what you are really like without His Spirit. It is not a pretty sight.

One of the things Steve Gallagher mentioned in this study was, “If we attempt to obey the Law outside of the Spirit, we will soon find ourselves becoming hard-hearted, self-righteous, and contemptuous of others.” So the answer is not just doing good. Therefore, the question is, How do I become filled with the Spirit?

This is not something one can conjure or “will” into existence. Instead, you must surrender every part of yourself to Christ. You must turn off the entertainment and spend more time with Him. You must study His Word to learn what He desires of you, and then do it. Let Christ chip away every bit of stone around your heart so that His Spirit can fill in the gaps. As this happens, your desires will change so that you want to do the right things for the right reasons.

As I mentioned in the beginning, dying to self is not an easy process, but this death is the only one that will bring everlasting life.

Are You Starving?

As I was doing my Bible study last evening, Romans 1:28 jumped out at me:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.

Matthew 5: 6 says:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

If you are not hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness, if you do not long for it as though you were starving, may I submit that you may very easily fall into the category of those who do not like to retain God in their knowledge? These people are “filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness,” among other things (Romans 1:29). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you would not put yourself into one of those categories, but if you are not actively seeking God, spending time with Him, studying His Word, you may very easily find yourself falling into an alternate lifestyle and then wondering how you got there.

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” You cannot serve God and the world. I see so many who act like they can have all this and Jesus too, but we serve a jealous God. He wants our full devotion. He does not want to compete with the plethora of entertainment that we have today.

D.L. Moody is quoted as saying:

The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.

If you never have time to read God’s Word or spend quality time in prayer, I challenge you to examine your heart and ask yourself why. I understand there are busy days and busy seasons, but there should not be busy lifestyles that keep us from doing the most important things. Most of us do not forget to eat or drink, at least not usually the whole day. If you have time to do that, you can find time for God. Download a Bible app and read while you eat if you need to, but make sure that you are getting God’s Word into your heart so that you don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

This hit me in a new way last night, and I am asking God for help to make the time to draw near to Him, to continually learn of Him, to listen to Him. If you and I are too busy to do those things, we are simply too busy.